Now that the end of the CHL season is official, it is time to take a very early look at the what teams will try and do to shore up their two major restricted areas on the roster. Those limited areas are the import spots (of which you can only have two) and the overage spots (of which you can have three).
The CHL import draft comes near the end of June and there is already talk that potential top picks in the NHL draft Timothy Liljegren and Klim Kostin could be headed over to the CHL. What teams have room for those two, or will be trying to draft an import of their own? Lets take a look.
Brandon Wheat Kings
Overage players (4) – Logan Thompson (goalie), James Shearer (defense), Kade Jensen (defense), Meyer Nell (LW).
Import (1) – Daniel Bukac (defenseman), Czech Republic, 1998-born.
The What Kings recently traded Travis Child away to Edmonton for a conditional draft pick. Garrett Armour finished last season in the MJHL and so he likely isn’t back. They still have one more 1997-born player to deal or cut and will add another import come the draft.
Overage players (6) – Cody Porter (goalie), Nick Schneider (goalie), Jaydan Gordon (defense), Brady Reagan (defense), Jakob Stukel (LW), Matteo Gennaro (center).
Imports (2) – Vladislav Yeryomenko (defense), Belarus, 1999. Andrei Grishakov (forward), Russia, 1999.
The Hitmen brought in their second overage goalie back on May 24th with Nick Schneider. As he is signed by the Calgary Flames, maybe it makes sense for him to play in the same building so the NHL club can keep an eye on him. With Gennaro not getting signed by the NHL team that drafted him, he re-enters the draft. If he returns, he might make an interesting trade chip. With both of their imports being young, it is doubtful they will make a selection in the import draft.
Edmonton Oil Kings
Overage players (5) – Patrick Dea (goalie), Travis Child (goalie), Colton Kehler (RW/C), Jesse Roach (RW), Adam Berg (LW).
Imports (2) – Anatoli Elizarov (defense), Russia, 1998. Artyom Baltruk (RW/C), Belarus, 1999.
-Another Central Division team sporting two overage netminders. Beyond those two, they will have to decide between two of: Kehler, Roach and Berg. This is going to be a tough choice.
Overage players (7)– Noah Juulsen (defense), Kevin Davis (defense), Patrick Bajkov (RW), Matt Fonteyne (center), Devon Skoleski (RW), Keith Anderson (RW), Cal Babych (RW).
Import players (1) – Eetu Tuulola, (RW), Finland, 1998.
-Juulsen was drafted and signed by Montreal so he is extremely likely gone. Davis and Bajkov would seem to be locks among the remaining players with Fonteyne having an inside track on the last overage spot. If they go with Davis, they are guaranteeing that a significant amount of their forward depth will not return. Everett will draft once in the import draft.
Overage players (6) – Connor Ingram (goalie), Joe Gatenby (defense), Nick Chyzowski (center), Devon Sideroff (RW), Nic Holowk0 (LW), Rudolfs Balcers (RW).
Import players (2)– Ondrej Vala (defense), Czech Republic, 1998, Balcers, (RW), Latvia, 1997.
-Ingram and Sideroff will likely play professionally as they are signed by Tampa Bay and Anaheim respectively. That leaves four overage players, with one of them being a two-spotter in Balcers. He would be their returning leading scorer with 77 points, so he might be worth that, but it is fairly rare for teams to use two spots on the same player. If Kamloops drafts in the import draft, we will know that they aren’t counting on Balcers returning.
Overage players (8)– Lucas Johansen (defense), Devonte Stephens (defense), Gordie Ballhorn (defense), James Hilsendager (defense), Nick Merkley (center), Carsen Twarynski (LW), Tomas Soustal (center), Calvin Thurkauf (LW).
Import players (2)– Soustal (center), Czech Republic, 1997, Thurkauf (LW), Switzerland, 1997.
-Johansen, Stephens, Merkley and Thurkauf are all NHL-signed and thus likely won’t return. Twarynski has not signed yet, but was drafted in 2016, so the Philadelphia Flyers have until next June to sign him. With all of the lost offense walking out the door, he would seem to be the best bet to return of the remaining four players. Soustal is another two-spotter and so could find himself without a spot. With Thurkauf likely gone, the Rockets will get at least one pick and they may decide to draft another and leave Soustal out. Is this where one of those two big-name imports end up?
Overage players (5)– Mario Petit (goalie), Troy Murray (defense), Kurtis Rutledge (defense), Austin Wellsby (1997), Colton Kroeker (center).
Imports (1) – Nikita Radzivilyuk (defense), Russia, 1999.
-They brought in Carter Hart’s understudy and so could end up going with an overage goalie for the third season in a row. Kroeker was key for them after coming in from Lethbridge and will likely be relied upon to be a top-two center. If Petit wins the starting job, that leaves two of Wellsby, Murray and Rutledge out in the cold. They will draft high in the import draft again and will assuredly have a better outcome than last year.
Overage players (5) – Brennan Menell (defense), Brennan Riddle (defense), Giorgio Estephan (center), Alec Baer (RW), Egor Babenko (LW).
Import players (2) – Babenko, (LW), Russia, 1997, Igor Merezhko (defense), Ukraine, 1998.
-This is the first team where I can see a home for all five players in the WHL. Estephan not signing with Buffalo remains shocking, but he could end up playing professionally if he is picked up in the NHL draft later this month. Menell is their power play QB, so he has to be a lock and they traded for Baer at last year’s trade deadline so he is a strong candidate. With Riddle being a valued shutdown defender, they could end up parting ways with a two-spot, dynamic forward in Babenko. A guy who tore up the playoffs, Babenko could very well end up playing somewhere in the WHL or CHL, a la Rodrigo Abols last year. Lethbridge choosing in the import draft or not, will tell us a lot about their intentions.
Medicine Hat Tigers
Overage players (8) – Michael Bullion (goalie), Ty Schultz (defense), Brad Forrest (defense), Jordan Henderson (defense), Zach Fischer (RW), Mark Rassell (LW), Kristians Rubins (defense), John Dahlstrom (RW)
Import players (2) – Rubins (defense), Latvia, 1997, Dahlstrom (RW), Sweden, 1997.
-Dealing away Schneider and Bradley brought them down from the gigantic number of 10 overage players, but they still have a lot of decisions to make. Jordan Hollett coming in from Regina could mean that the Tigers don’t want either of their goaltending duo from last season back. Rubins and Dahlstrom are both two-spotters so you would think they aren’t going to keep both. Dahsltrom was drafted by Chicago but has yet to be signed. It could be that the Tigers decide to go younger and draft twice in the import draft.
Moose Jaw Warriors
Overage players (4) – Tanner Jeannot (LW),Jayden Halbgewachs (center), Brayden Burke (LW), Spencer Bast (RW).
Import players (1) – Dmitri Zaitsev (defense), Russia, 1998.
-This would appear to be one of the easiest decision in the WHL. Jennot, Halbgewachs and Burke all combined for 212 points last season and figure to be in the top-six on a team that should contend for the Eastern Conference. The unexpected move by Zach Sawchenko to leave the team going into his overage year remains surprising but it does make getting down to three 1997-born players a lot easier. Moose Jaw will assuredly draft once in the CHL import draft.
Overage players (6) – Cole Kehler (goalie), Keoni Texeira (defense), Caleb Jones (defense), Alex Overhardt (center), Evan Weinger (RW), Colton Veloso (RW).
Import players (2) – Henri Jokiharju (defense), Finland, 1999, Joachim Blichfeld (RW), Denmark, 1998.
-With 21 signed forwards and the defense appearing to be the weaker spot on the team, my money would be on Kehler and Texeira being two of the overage players and one of Weinger, Overhardt or Veloso being the other. Weinger has some strong chemistry with fellow top-six forward Ryan Hughes, but Overhardt plays a much-needed position for the team, so the decision will be a tough one.
Prince Albert Raiders
Overage players (4)– Nick Heid (defense), Curtis Miske (center), Jordy Stallard (center), Simon Stransky (LW).
Import players (2)- Stransky (LW), Czech Rep, (1997), Vojtech Budik (defense), Czech Republic, (1998).
-Stransky led the team in scoring last year, but would be a two-spotter on a team that could use some fresh young talent from overseas. Stallard had 10 points in just eight games after coming over from Calgary, but is need of a big year after being drafted but not yet signed by Winnipeg.
Prince George Cougars
Overage players (10)– Tate Olson (defense), Shane Collins (defense), Brendan Guhle (defense), Jansen Harkins (center), Aaron Boyd (LW), Jared Bethune (LW), Jesse Gabrielle (LW), Brogan O’Brien (center), Tanner Wishnowski (LW), Radovan Bondra (LW).
Import players (2)– Nikita Popugaev (LW), Russia, 1998, Bondra (LW), Slovakia, 1997.
-Guhle, Harkins, Gabrielle and Bondra all have signed professional contracts. Bondra’s is overseas with Slovan Bratislava of the KHL. Olson will re-enter the NHL draft in a few weeks as he was not signed by Vancouver after they drafted him in 2015. Even with the signings and moving Morrison to their B.C. Division rivals, they are left with six overage players. Olson and Bethen appear to be the easiest decisions, though they might also bring back the best trade return. The Cougars will draft once in the import draft, with Bondra presumably starting the year in Europe.
Red Deer Rebels
Overage players (6)– Lasse Petersen (goalie), Grayson Pawlenchuk (LW), Adam Musil (center), Matthew Campese (LW), Mason McCarty (RW), Michael Spacek (center).
Import players (2)– Spacek (center), Czech Republic, 1997, Alexander Alexeyev (defense), Russia, 1999.
-It was revealed at the conclusion of the season Campese would not be invited back to Red Deer. Adam Musil is signed to an NHL deal and is not likely to return. Michael Spacek signed an ATO with the Manitoba Moose and then an NHL deal with the Winnipeg Jets. That leaves 3 spots filled by Lasse Pertersen, Grayson Pawlenchuk and Mason McCarty (who they brought in at the WHL Bantam Draft) Sutter may not be done here as there is speculation that Petersen may not be between the pipes for the Rebels.
Overage players (7)– Tyler Brown (goalie), Connor Hobbs (defense), Austin Wagner (1997), Wyatt Sloboshan (center), Matt Bradley (center), Sergey Zborovskiy (defense), Filip Ahl (LW).
Import players (2)- Zborovskiy, (defense), Russia, 1997, Ahl (LW), Sweden, 1997.
-NHL teams mostly took care of what would have been a tough decision for the 2018 Memorial Cup hosts. Hobbs, Wagner and Zborovskiy all were signed by their perspective NHL teams. That leaves Brown, Sloboshan, Bradley and Ahl. I get the feeling that Regina would not have traded for Bradley from Medicine Hat, if they thought Ahl was coming back. It seems likely then that he will end up getting signed by Ottawa and playing in the AHL, or he will play in Sweden somewhere.
Overage players (5)– Brock Hamm (goalie), Logan Flodell (goalie), Evan Fiala (defense), Cameron Hebig (center), Braylon Shmyr (LW).
Import players (2)– Libor Hajek (defense), Czech Republic, 1998, Mark Rubinchik (defense), Russia, 1999.
-They traded away McCarty but that won’t be the last hard choice they make. Hebig is the most dynamic player on the team and had posted 69 points as an 18-year-old. Unfortunately he was sidelined for the entirety of his 19-year-old season with an upper-body issue. He has struggled with concussion issues for much of his career in Saskatoon. Shmyr was a big-time player for the Blades last year and a big reason they very nearly made the playoffs. He should be back. Flodell had an unbelievable start and he ended with a 2.81 GAA and 0.912 save percentage. Hamm will be the odd goalie out based upon Flodell’s track record.
Overage players (8)– Ethan Bear (defense), Turner Ottenbreit (defense), Austin Strand (defense), Mathew Barzal (center), Keegan Kolesar (RW), Donovan Neuls (RW), Tyler Adams (LW), Alexander True (center).
Import players (2)– True (center), Denmark, 1997, Sami Moilanen (RW), Finland, 1999.
-Bear, Barzal and Kolesar all signed contracts with the NHL teams that drafted them and so are very likely not coming back. That still leaves five nice overage options for the defending champs. Ottenbreit and Strand would be a very good top pairing if they both came back and Neuls was dynamite on their playoff run. True would take up two spots so we will see if Seattle goes that way. Likely, they go into camp with four overage options and three import options after drafting someone and then see if True gets a contract somewhere.
Overage players (3)– Tyson Helgesen (defense), Hudson Elynuik (center), Rykr Cole (RW).
Import players (0).
-Ondrej Najman and Pavel Kousal took care of their import choice by signing to play overseas. They would then appear to be able to stand pat. If they make a run though and Cole is playing in the bottom-six, they could end up adding top-four overage d-man at some point or one of the many goalies available.
Swift Current Broncos
Overage players (7)– Taz Burman (goalie), Max Lajoie (defense), Glenn Gawdin (center), Conner Chaulk (center), Arthur Miller (LW), Lane Pederson (center), Brandan Arnold (RW).
Import players (2)- Artyom Minulin (defense), Russia, 1998. Aleksi Heponiemi (center), Finland, 1999.
-Pederson was signed as a free agent by Arizona and so should be playing professionally as will Lajoie who was signed by Ottawa. Gawdin re-enters the draft after St. Louis passed on locking him up. He and Burman would appear to be the easy choices with the other three depth forwards battling it out for the last spot.
Tri City Americans
Overage players (7)– Evan Sarthou (goalie), Parker Wotherspoon (defense), Brendan O’Reilly (defense), Maxwell James (LW), Austyn Playfair (center), Jordan Topping (LW), Vladislav Lukin (RW).
Import players (2)– Vladislav Lukin (RW), Russia, 1997, Juuso Valimaki (defense), Finland, 1998.
-Wotherspoon is a signed N.Y. Islanders’s prospect. Sarthou and Topping would both appear to be set especially since Rylan Pareneteau aged out of the league and no one else has had significant minutes between the pipes there. Lukin would take two spots but when he was healthy was an elite offensive player and made their power play click. Yet again, whether the team takes anyone in the import draft will be telling.
-Per Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald, Playfair will be playing CIS hockey in 2017-18.
Overage players (6)– Darian Skeoch (defense), Jordan Wharrie (defense), Ty Ronning (RW), Johnny Wesley (RW), Jack Flaman (LW), Brad Morrison (center).
Import players (1)– Bartek Bison (LW), Netherlands, 1998.
-Vancouver brought in one of the premier, available overage forwards in Brad Morrison from P.G. They could look to pair him on a line with Tyler Benson and Ty Ronning. The latter has yet to be signed by the N.Y. Rangers and could use a breakout season on a talented top line. Skeoch is a very valued asset on the back end and thus the three overage choices appear somewhat settled. The Giants will select at least once in the import draft with Bison being the only possible holdover.
Overage players (7)– Chaz Reddekopp (defense), Loch Morrison (defense), Tyler Soy (center), Regan Nagy (RW), Ethan Price (RW), Marsel Ibragimov (defense), Vladimir Bobylev (center).
Import players (3)- Ibragimov (defense), Russia, 1997, Bobylev (center), Russia, 1997, Yan Khomenko (RW), Russia, 1998.
-Reddekopp was signed back in April by L.A. and so is likely gone to the AHL. Soy played in the AHL on an ATO but has yet to be signed by Anaheim, who drafted him in 2016. With the Royals bringing in Khomenko in May, at least one of Ibragimov or Bobylev has to go. With Ibragimov signing with CSKA Moskva of the KHL, that would appear to be settled as well. However, bringing in two different two-spotters is definitely outside the norm.
Jeff Hollick contributed in a big way to rounding up the names on this list.